Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

AP probe finds drugs in drinking water

March 12, 2008
By JEFF DONN, MARTHA MENDOZA and JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writers Sun Mar 9, 5:03 PM ET

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

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To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the information” and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

“We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation’s 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

_Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.

_Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

_Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

_A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco‘s drinking water.

_The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

_Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson, Ariz.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven’t: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City‘s Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.

The AP’s investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation’s water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water — Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.

The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city’s water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that “New York City’s drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system” — regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.

In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers — one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas — that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP’s questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren’t in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale, Pa., has measured water samples from New York City‘s upstate watershed for caffeine, a common contaminant that scientists often look for as a possible signal for the presence of other pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high levels even in less populated areas.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks, maybe with other drugs. “Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail,” Aufdenkampe said.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe — even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

In the United States, the problem isn’t confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the nation’s water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Perhaps it’s because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

“People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case,” said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There’s evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8 percent, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. “Based on what we now know, I would say we find there’s little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health,” said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: “There’s no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they’re at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms.”

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

“It brings a question to people’s minds that if the fish were affected … might there be a potential problem for humans?” EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. “It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven’t gotten far enough along.”

With limited research funds, said Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a greater emphasis should be put on studying the effects of drugs in water.

“I think it’s a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health,” said Snyder. “They need to just accept that these things are everywhere — every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It’s time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental.”

To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to “detect and quantify pharmaceuticals” in wastewater. “We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations,” he said. “We’re going to be able to learn a lot more.”

While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it’s being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

So much is unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations will ultimately prove to be harmful to humans. Confidence about human safety is based largely on studies that poison lab animals with much higher amounts.

There’s growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics.

For several decades, federal environmental officials and nonprofit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants — pesticides, lead, PCBs — which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk.

However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

“These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That’s what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects,” says zoologist John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That’s why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water.

“We know we are being exposed to other people’s drugs through our drinking water, and that can’t be good,” says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.

____

The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate (at) ap.org

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Exxon suxx. McCain duxx. By Greg Palast

February 28, 2008

Exxon suxx. McCain duxx. By Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

By Greg Palast
27 February 2008

Nineteen goddamn years is enough. I’m sorry if you don’t like my language, but when I think about what they did to Paul Kompkoff, I’m in no mood to nicey-nice words.

Next month marks 19 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped its load of crude oil across the Prince William Sound, Alaska. A big gooey load of this crude spilled over the lands of the Chenega Natives. Paul Kompkoff was a seal-hunter for the village. That is, until Exxon’s ship killed the seal and poisoned the rest of Chenega’s food supply.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

Nice guys. But, hell, they were right, weren’t they?

But Exxon didn’t do it alone. They had enablers. One was a failed oil driller named “Dubya.” Exxon was the largest contributor to George W. Bush’s political career after Enron. They were a team, Exxon and Enron. The Chairman of Enron, Ken Lay, prior to his felony convictions, funded a group called Texans for Law Suit Reform. The idea was to prevent Natives, consumers and defrauded stockholders from suing felonious corporations and their chiefs.

When George went to Washington, Enron and Exxon got their golden pass in the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. Today, as the court heard Exxon’s latest stall, Roberts said, in defense of Exxon’s behavior in Alaska, “What more can a corporation do?”

The answer, Your Honor, is plenty.

For starters, Mr. Roberts, Exxon could have turned on the radar. What? On the night the Exxon Valdez smacked into Bligh Reef, the Raycas radar system was turned off. Exxon shipping honchos decided it was too expensive to maintain it and train their navigators to use it. So, the inexperienced third mate at the wheel was driving the supertanker by eyeball, Christopher Columbus style. I kid you not.

Here’s what else this poor ‘widdle corporation could do: stop lying.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not even supposed to leave harbor.

If a tanker busts open, that doesn’t have to mean a thousand miles of shoreline gets slimed – so long as oil-slick containment equipment is in place.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not supposed have left port. No tanker can unless a spill containment barge is operating nearby. That night, the barge was in dry-dock, locked under ice. Exxon kept that fact hidden, concealing the truth even after the tanker grounded. An Exxon official radioed the emergency crew, “Barge is on its way.”

Paul’s gone – buried with Exxon’s promises. But the oil’s still there. Go out to Chenega lands today. At Sleepy Bay, kick over some gravel and it will smell like a gas station.

What the heck does this have to do with John McCain? The Senator is what I’d call a ‘Tort Tart.’ Ken Lay’s “Law Suit Reform” posse was one of the fronts used by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists waging war on your day in court. Their rallying cry is ‘Tort Reform,’ by which they mean they want to take away the God-given right of any American, rich or poor, to sue the bastards who crush your child’s skull through product negligence, make your heart explode with a faulty medical device, siphon off your pension funds, or poison your food supply with spilled oil.

Now, all of the Democratic candidates have seen through this ‘tort reform’ con – and so did a Senator named McCain who, in 2001, for example, voted for the Patients Bill of Rights allowing claims against butchers with scalpels. Then something happened to Senator McCain: the guy who stuck his neck out for litigants got his head chopped off when he ran for President in the Republican Party in 2000 for what one lobbyists’ website called McCain’s, “his go-it-alone moralism.”

So the Senator did what I call, The McCain Hunch. Again and again he grabbed his ankles and apologized to the K Street lobbyists, reversing his positions on, well, you name it. For example, in 2001, he said of Bush’s tax cuts, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans.” Now, in bad conscience, the Senator vows to make these tax cuts permanent.

On “Tort Reform,” the about-face was dizzying. McCain voted to undermine his own 2001 Patients Bill of Rights with votes in 2005 to limit suits to enforce it. He then added his name to a bill that would have thrown sealhunter Kompkoff’s suit out of federal court.

In 2003, McCain voted against Bush’s Energy Plan, an industry oil-gasm. But this week, following Exxon’s report that it sucked in $40.6 billion in earnings last year, the largest profit haul in planetary history, McCain failed to join Clinton, Obama, most Democrats and some Republicans on a bill to require a teeny sliver of industry profit go to alternative energy sources. On oil independence, McCain is AWOL, missing in action.

Well, Paul, at least you were spared this.

I remember when I was on the investigation in Alaska, fishermen, bankrupted, utterly ruined – Kompkoff’s co-plaintiffs in the suit before the court – floated their soon-to-be repossessed boats into the tanker lanes with banners reading, “EXXON SUXX.” To which they could now add, about a one-time stand-up Senator: “McCain duxx.”

Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his investigative reports at http://www.GregPalast.com

Norway opens ‘Doomsday’ seed vault

February 27, 2008
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2008
14:49 MECCA TIME, 11:49 GMT
Norway opens ‘Doomsday’ seed vault

Wangari Maathai, left, Jose Manuel Barroso, centre, and Jens Stoltenberg at the ceremony [AFP]
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“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is our insurance policy,” Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister, told delegates at the opening ceremony.
“It is the Noah’s Ark for securing biological diversity for future generations.”
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Backup plan
The cavern will act as a backup storage for seeds from gene banks around the world.
Initially, 100 million seeds from more than 100 countries have been sent for safekeeping at the $10m facility which holds 268,000 distinct seed samples, each from a different farm or field.
Stoltenberg said the vault, would guard “the fundamental building blocks of human civilisation” from forces, including climate change, threatening the “diversity of life that sustain our planet”.
The Norwegian prime minister and Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and 2004 Nobel peace prize winner, put the first box of seeds in the vault at the inauguration ceremony.
The ‘Doomsday’ vault’s seed deposits range from major African and Asian staples such as rice, maize, wheat, cowpea and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley and potato.
‘Frozen Garden of Eden’
“We will have a major [seed] collection here, one of the biggest in the world, from the opening day,” Cary Fowler, head of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is funding the operations of the vault, said.
“We are going to put an end to extinction with this vault because we are going to have a safety backup, a Plan B.”
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European commission president, was also at the ceremony.
He called the project “a frozen Garden of Eden”.
Roger Smith, the founder of the Millennium Seed Bank in the UK’s Kew Gardens, told Al Jazeera there needed to be greater understanding of just how endangered some plant life is.
“We’re talking about a something like a rate of extinction 70 times greater for plants than is in the geographical record – we’re talking about thousands of species being lost,” he said.
Smith called the Svalbard vault a “double indemnity”, saying “it is the safe deposit box where seed banks can put some of their contents for security”.
The seeds will be kept at a storage temperature of minus 18-20 degrees Celsius.
Barley can survive 2,000 years, wheat 1,700 and sorghum almost 20,000 years under such conditions, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
If the freezers failed, the permafrost would keep the cavern at around minus 4 Celsius, allowing time for repairs.
“I like having a Plan B to our Plan B,” Fowler said.

 
 
 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

From Oil Wars to Water Wars

December 13, 2007

From Oil Wars to Water Wars

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Posted on Dec 11, 2007

By Amy Goodman

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this week, in Oslo, Norway. Al Gore shared the prize with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents more than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries. The solemn ceremony took place as the United States is blocking meaningful progress at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, and the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have derailed the energy bill passed by the House of Representatives, which would have accelerated the adoption of renewable energy sources at the expense of big-oil and coal corporations.

Gore set the stage: “So, today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

“As a result, the Earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong. We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.”

He went on: “Last Sept. 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the north polar ice cap is ‘falling off a cliff.’ One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.”

How will climate-change skeptics explain that one? (Already, big business is celebrating the break up of the polar ice cap, as a northern sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is opening, creating a cheaper route for more needless shipping.) It is hard to imagine the north pole, the storied, frozen expanse of ice and snow, completely gone in just a few years. Lost as well will be the vast store of archeological data trapped in the ice: thousands of years of the Earth’s climate history are told in the layers of ice that descend for miles there. Scientists are just now learning how to read and interpret the history. The great meltdown will surely have catastrophic effects on the ecosystem in the north, with species like the polar bear already edging toward extinction.

Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian scientist, accepted for the IPCC. He is a careful scientist with the political finesse to chair the work of the IPCC despite the enduring antagonism of the United States. He pointed to the disproportionate effect of climate change on the world’s poor:

“[T]he impacts of climate change on some of the poorest and the most vulnerable communities in the world could prove extremely unsettling …  in terms of: access to clean water, access to sufficient food, stable health conditions, ecosystem resources, security of settlements.”

Pachauri predicts water wars and mass migrations. “Migration, usually temporary and often from rural to urban areas, is a common response to calamities such as floods and famines.”

Gore invoked the memory of Mohandas Gandhi, saying he “awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called ‘Satyagraha’—or ‘truth force.’ In every land, the truth—once known—has the power to set us free.” Satyagraha, as Gandhi practiced it, is the disciplined application of nonviolent resistance, which is exactly what Ted Glick is doing back in Washington, D.C.

Glick heads up the Climate Emergency Council. On his 99th day of a liquids-only fast, the day after the Nobel ceremony, he joined with 20 people in the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for a sit-in. The Senate Republicans are now blocking a federal energy bill that would create funding for the development of renewable energy sources in the U.S., while stripping away billions of dollars worth of tax breaks for big oil and coal.

Glick told me: “We have to be willing to go to jail. Al Gore, himself, a couple of months ago talked about how young people need to be sitting in in front of the coal plants to prevent coal plants from being built. That’s true. Young people need to be doing that. Middle-age people need to be doing that. Older people need to be doing that. And Al Gore needs to be doing that. Let’s get serious about this crisis.”

While Glick was sitting in, news reports began to circulate about Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani’s law firm’s lobbying activities against the energy bill. According to Bloomberg news, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP was hired by energy giant Southern Co. to defeat the bill. At a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser last August, addressing members of the coal industry, Giuliani said, “We have to increase our reliance on coal.”

As Giuliani’s coffers get fat with money from big oil, gas and coal, Glick has lost more than 40 pounds, and the Earth’s temperature continues to rise.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

War Paint and Lawyers

November 28, 2007

War Paint and Lawyers:
Rainforest Indians versus Big Oil

Published <!– by Greg Palast –> November 26th, 2007 in Articles

Greg Palast investigates for BBC Newsnight
Chevron: “Nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Tuesday, November 27, 10:30pm GMT [5:30pm New York Time] – live on BBC2 TV or on the net at www.BBC.co.uk/Newsnight.
Greg getting in Canoe

BBC Television Newsnight has been able to get close-in film of a new Cofan Indian ritual deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. Known as “The Filing of the Law Suit,” natives of Ecuador’s jungle, decked in feathers and war paint and heavily armed with lawyers, are filmed presenting a new complaint in their litigation seeking $12 billion from Chevron Inc., the international oil goliath.

It would all be a poignant joke – except that the indigenous tribe is suddenly the odds-on favorite to defeat the oil company known for naming its largest tanker, “Condoleezza,” after former Chevron director, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Cofan Leader CriolloRice.

For Newsnight, reporter Greg Palast, steps (somewhat inelegantly) into a dug-out log canoe to seek out the Cofan in their rainforest village to investigate their allegations. Palast discovers stinking pits of old oil drilling residue leaking into drinking water – and meets farmers whose limbs are covered in pustules.

The Cofan’s leader, Emergildo Criollo, tells Palast that when Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, came to the village in 1972, it obtained permission to drill by offering the Indians candy and cheese. The indigenous folk threw the funny-selling cheese into the jungle.

Criollo says his three-year son died from oil contamination after, “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.”

Flying out of the rainforest, past the Andes volcanoes, Palast gets the other side of the story in Ecuador’s capitol, Quito. “It’s the largest fraud in history!” asserts Chevron lawyer Jaime Varela reacting to the Cofan law suits against his company. Chevron-Texaco, Varela insists, cleaned up all its contaminated oil pits when it abandoned the country nearly 15 years ago – except those pits it left in the hands of Ecuador’s own state oil company.

What about the Indian kids dying of cancer? Texaco lawyer Rodrigo Perez asks, “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, in Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude – which is absolutely impossible.” The Texaco man stated, “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Even if the Indians can prove their case and win billions to clean up the jungle, collecting the cash is another matter. Chevron has removed all its assets from Ecuador.Sludge in Ecuador

But, this week, the political planet tilts toward the natives as Alberto Acosta takes office as President of Ecuador’s new Constitutional Assembly. Newsnight catches up with Acosta – who gives Chevron a tongue-lashing. “Chevron is responsible for environmental and social destruction in the Amazon. And that’s why they’re on trial.”

“He LOVES Chavez”
Little Ecuador does not seem like much of a match against big Chevron – whose revenue exceeds the entire GDP of the Andean nation. However, behind Little Ecuador is Huge Venezuela – and its larger-than-life leader, Hugo Chavez. “Acosta,” complains one local pundit to the BBC, “loves – LOVES – Chavez.”

And apparently, the feeling is mutual. That is, Chavez sees in Ecuador’s new government, which won election campaigning to the tune of the Twisted Sister hit, We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore, a new ally in his fight with George Bush over control of Latin hearts and minds – and energy.

Chevron LawyersChevron-Texaco’s largest new oil reserves are in Venezuela; Venezuela stands with Ecuador; and Ecuador now stands with its “affectados,” the Indians and farmers claiming the poisons in their bodies trace right back to the Texaco star.

Suddenly, the David-versus-Goliath story of Little Indians versus Big Oil is becoming part of the larger conflict between Uncle Sam and Uncle Hugo. The outcome is now a cliff-hanger. Indeed, Newsnight has learned that this month, Chevron will face a new legal challenge by Cofan attorneys before US securities regulators to investigate whether the company has fully disclosed to shareholders the massive potential legal liability from the equatorial Rumble in the Jungle.

Watch the story live on BBC2 or, in the US, on the net at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm after broadcast – or via a link from www.GregPalast.com. WARNING: The day’s news events may require Newsnight to delay broadcast to another evening.

Australia ‘world’s worst polluter’

November 16, 2007

Coal-fired power stations are among the biggest contributors to global warming [GALLO/GETTY]
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According to the report, Australia came seventh overall on a list of the top 50 countries by carbon dioxide-emitting power sectors, with 226 million tonnes.

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But it came in ahead of many countries with larger populations and “on a per capita basis, Australians are some of the largest CO2 emitters in the world, producing more than 11 tonnes of power sector CO2 emissions per person per year”, the report said.

The US, the world’s largest overall CO2 emitter, emits nine tonnes per person each year, it said.

 

Global warming has become a key issue in Australia’s upcoming election and Kevin Rudd, the opposition leader tipped to become the next prime minister, has promised to ratify the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

 

On Thursday, just hours after the report was published, Greenpeace protesters stormed a power plant north of Sydney and chained themselves to machinery to draw attention to the issue.

 

“We demonstrated what this country needs to do – close those coal-fired power stations and use cleaner energy,” organiser Stephen Campbell, a protest organiser, said.

 

Fifteen protesters were arrested and charges of trespass and malicious damage were expected to be laid against them.

 

The power plant’s operators said generating operations were not affected by the protest.

 
 
Source: Agencies

We Are in a Bad Fix

October 12, 2007

We Are in a Bad Fix

This is a planet in denial. While the existential question gets a red hot “apocalypse now” for an answer, our stock markets seem to have regained paradise lost.

We are witnessing nothing less than history’s first confluence of unsustainable “peaks.”

Perhaps, we are incapable of piecing them all, for when crude oil reached an all-time intra-day high of $84.10 per barrel on Sept 20, its entitlement to a front pager screamer was conceded to the tale of a few thousand empty — or emptying — American homes.

It was like the Butterfly Effect, with a twist. The flapping rooftops of confiscated homes were now whipping up an economic tsunami worldwide.

Here is how it works.

US mortgage lenders, voracious as ever for “more,” had extended loans to the default-income group, who, were in turn hit by bad economic management. Credit card issuers followed suit to bloat consumer fantasies, and banks tightened the noose with additional loans for cars, tuition and businesses.

In the world of finance, debt is ironically regarded as an “asset.” Think of the rock-solid house that can be repossessed in the event of a default.

Debts, with the outward promise of a steady cash flow, are regularly pooled, “securitized” and converted into a bewildering array of financial products along an upward chain, where, they are hawked off by fund managers to the global market

This money buys up commodities, stocks, and yes, more “securities and derivatives,” along with junk bonds and blue chips.

It was easy come, easy go, wherever the money takes you…a 24/7 electronic casino…a Las Vegas without borders.

London bankers were toasting to the dawn of “the haves and the have yachts” at cocktail parties where sauvé qui peut was the vintage.

One of the greatest scams in recent memory was unfolding, exposing a pyramid scheme of epic proportions.

When this reached the point of metastasis, stock markets began to collapse.

The bottom feeders could not pay up anymore. Even the middle class were finding it difficult to pass the buck upwards.

This is called a liquidity crisis, and it happens when the laws of gravity finally exert a pull on the cash flow.

Still the champagne flowed. Lip-smacking advertorials continued to gush over “securities,” “derivatives,” and “comprehensive financial suites,” set in a Jacuzzi lilting to Ponzi’s version of “money for nothing and chicks for free.”

The pyramids may come crashing down, but the missing capstones are free to roam, investing in gold here, financial products there and junk bonds everywhere.

To avert a panic run though, central banks worldwide pumped $400 billion to maintain liquidity’s equilibrium.

Stock markets were no longer in the bearish or bullish mode; rather they were cancroidal, allowing fund managers to sidewheel from one market to another in search of profits, suckers, and a subtle pullout before the big bang.

It was the dawn of the crab, of cancer in stock market terminology, if one was needed. Suspicions were mounting. European banks were facing insolvency.

For three days beginning Sept. 14, savers across the United Kingdom removed £2 billion ($4 billion) from Northern Rock, Britain’s fifth largest lender. The Bank of England had to step in to guarantee all deposits in all banks — a move with little or no precedence.

However, the banks were not convinced either. Inter-bank lending, which profitably cycled cash from one bank to another as demand dictated, was now deemed an inter-bank debt trap. Available cash was hoarded up.

The Bank of England’s cash auction of £10bn — at a rate of 6.75% over three-months — has been shunned for the third consecutive week.

Either the “have yachts” have sailed away, or banks may actually find it difficult to repay the Bank of England.

Worldwide, the full weight of the “asset-backed” collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and structured investment vehicles (SIVs) may run into more than the $400 billion which central banks coughed up to keep the system afloat.

CDOs and SIVs are the sleek-sounding trillion-dollar apexes built on loans taken from simple homeowners.

Banks are still tallying what is real and redeemable, and what was created and whirling in thin air. Their best bet now is for a deux ex machina.

Bull in the China Shop

The biggest economic success story of our times was the product of Western consumerism. It created a real supply and demand situation, which forced the relocation of factories to the Third World of cheap labor.

China was the champion recipient. Demand for toys, screws, machinery, computers and cellphones could never ebb, whether it came leaded or unleaded. Beijing’s policymakers decided that the perennial flow of greenbacks demanded a domestic infrastructural revolution dictated by the export market — a first in history if there was one.

Factories, coal-fired plants, superhighways, skyscrapers were springing up at breakneck speed to fulfill the export craze. Excessive pollution and the plight of “unregistered” migrant workers from rural China mattered little.

What mattered were prestige, kickbacks and $1.2tr in hard currency-based reserves. It did not matter that China’s domestic consumption vis a vis its GDP was actually decreasing; it was more a matter of consumer opiates, of who was boss in the center of the universe.

It did not matter that Chinese cities were shrouded in toxic gray, where “only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union.”1

The Chinese may cough but the ‘days when the world caught a cold whenever Uncle Sam sneezed was over.” Or so it seemed.

Uncle Sam sneezed.

Global finance began hemorrhaging, and it had to be resuscitated through an intravenous flow of taxpayer money.

Western consumers finally realized that girths had to be tightened, and what to better way than to curb spending, and let a market correction take place in the import sector.

An entire supply chain leading to China’s factories are in danger of folding up. Mineral resources from Africa, semiconductor plants in Malaysia, raw textile products elsewhere, now face acute market uncertainty.

China is in a bad fix. However, this is not deterring factories from coming online next year to meet the projected “global demand.” If Western consumers are scaling down their purchases, Africans are not in a position to be the replacement buyers, and without a market, they will not be able to sell their raw products either.

In such circumstances, moods can shift. When “Beijing rolled out the red carpet for more than 40 African heads of state last November, billboards depicting Africans clad in leopard skin underwear, and an indigenous man from Papua New Guinea, plastered the city.”2 It is no wonder that China’s list of “allies” is getting shorter by the day.

Events in Myanmar are not proving helpful. China enjoys a near monopoly over Myanmar’s estimated 2.46 trillion cubic meters of gas and 3.2 billion barrels of crude oil. Beijing had plans to develop two parallel oil and gas pipelines stretching 2,380-km to link the deepwater port of Sittwe to Kunming, in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Upon completion, a good portion of Middle Eastern oil and gas is expected to bypass the Straits of Malacca.

The quid pro quo was arms supply and support at the UN for Myanmar’s military junta. Any new government now might negate all existing deals, and pull Yangon into the US orbit. This is a timely revolution from Washington’s perspective.

North Korea too is seeking rapprochement. There is enough operational space now to tackle Tehran, Damascus and the Hezbollah.

China can of course play the spoiler by providing arms to these regimes via a proxy. It is still a bad idea as the Israelis are just itching for war.

The IAF recently destroyed a Syrian installation that was purportedly an embryonic nuclear facility, but may well turn out to be a Kolchuga-type passive radar system, ideal for downing B2 stealth bombers. Coincidentally, the Russians have pledged to upgrade Syrian radar defenses after the attack.

If a wider conflagration breaks out in the Middle East, there will be no oil flowing from the Straits of Hormuz to China, either through Sitte, or through the Straits of Malacca.

The best option for Beijing will be to lock its oil and gas grid to the Russian Far East at a breakneck speed, and clean up some level of air pollution in time for the 2008 Olympics.

If an all-out war in the Middle East is our worst nightmare, think of the following unfolding crises…

The Peak Crises and its plural

Peak Oil: Fossil fuels, compressed and formed over aeons in subterranean geological layers are now releasing the telltale sibilant whispers of a punctured gas tank — low as it was on petrol in the first place. With crude oil hovering above $80 per barrel, the various subsidies built into national economies are bound to burst at the seams, and precipitate price increases for basic necessities.

There is however a unique solution — falling consumer demand worldwide. That would crimp industrial demand for fossil fuel. It is no wonder oil majors were reluctant to build new refineries when profits seemed guaranteed in the era of “peak oil.” This day would surely come!

Peak oil is also tied to the current dollar crises. With the US dollar dipping against other major currencies, crude oil should come cheaper for Washington.

Oil and other commodities are traded in dollars, and dollar-denominated assets outnumber assets weighed in other currencies. Beijing can dump its hundreds of billions in dollar reserves for euros, only to trade them back into dollars to buy crude oil, gold and other assets.

The dollar blackmail will not work, especially with the US Army entrenched in the oil-rich Middle East.

Doomsday theorists are however predicting another Great Depression ahead, where the value of the dollar may mean little in the event of a global financial meltdown.

If this occurs, a global depression will have to deal with the following phenomena that was absent in the 30s.

Peak Urbanization: More than half of the world’s population will live in urban areas in just… a few months, according to a United Nations Population Fund report. That translates to 3.3 billion people in an urban concentration camp of shantytowns and high-rise pigeonholes.

Children are growing up in a peculiarly boxed-in environment, removed from the soil that births their identity. They do not wake up to the sound of a crowing rooster, which is nature’s way of sowing repentance and a turning of mindsets outside the conventional thinking box.

They wake up to beastly clangor instead. It is either the alarm clock or the barking dog, installed as “pets” to yelp any perceived intruder during the morning rush hour. The urban jungle is an industrialized Ziggurat, which pecks out a hierarchy from childhood. The ones right at the bottom will be the ones shouldering more concrete, or the biggest debt burden.

Close human proximity also leads to petty competitiveness and conflict. That is why “civilization” is held at gunpoint; by the police, by the army and by “treaties.”

The urban life is delicate and vulnerable to all sorts of hazards, from plagues to a breakdown in the utilities, communications and transportation services. And political upheavals. A disaster will grind down traffic to a gridlock, far from the escapist countryside.

What if an energy warfare broke out? What if a global depression hits us? Can three billion people grow a patch of greens on their balconies?

When it comes to greens, the outlook is not at all verdant…

Peak Grain: Global grain stockpiles are down to their tightest levels in three decades after two years of unusual weather patterns. Heatwaves have wilted crops in the granaries of the world while floods and other environmental scourges have devastated some of the poorer “self-sustaining” regions.

Global wheat stockpiles will fall to a 34-year low by June 2008, according to the International Grains Council. U.S. stockpiles will fall to lowest level since 1951-52. Wheat futures in Chicago reached $9.3925 a bushel late September when major supplier Ukraine slashed exports.

The price of a bushel has more than doubled in the past year.

The bushel of woes includes rice, barley, soybeans, sorghum, oats and lentils as well, and they are all sagging under record prices. The grapes of wrath have gone on to stalk eggs, cheese, milk, meat and the a la carte menu.

There may come a point when the industrial food chain has little choice but to pass the rising costs to consumers in a dramatic fashion.

Creeping upticks in the price of milk and bread are turning Europeans livid. Milk is now dubbed as the “new white gold.”

It is not just bad weather to blame. Rising demand from China is pushing up prices, despite the fact that only half of its urban population has basic health insurance. Tragically, processed food re-exported through Beijing’s food chain is causing a global health nightmare.

But why pick on China? The current biodiesel craze is inducing farms to purpose-plant their crops for the profitable bioenergy industry, according to the Hamburg-based Oil World.

“It is high time to realise that the world community is approaching a food crisis in 2008 unless usage of agricultural products for biofuels is curbed or ideal weather conditions and sharply higher crop yields are achieved in 2008,” it added

Bad news gets worse.

Peak Water: There is not enough freshwater around to sustain the planet’s inland ecosystem and its human population. Rivers that help supply drinking water are laden with toxic industrial wastes. Population growth is already straining the capacities of water treatment plants worldwide while desalination plants remain the prerogative of wealthy nations. According to the Pacific Institute: “Over 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water; more than 2 billion lack access to adequate sanitation; and millions die every year due to preventable water-related diseases. Water resources around the globe are threatened by climate change, misuse, and pollution.” It estimates that “over 34 million people might perish in the next 20 years from water-related disease — even if the United Nations ‘Millennium Development Goals,’ which aim to cut the proportion of those without safe access by half, are met.”3

Lots of water will be diverted to industries and agriculture, or the highest bidder as privatization of water supply gains currency. In some regions, the situation is so acute that water diversion in one country may precipitate conflict with a neighbor. As early as 1974, Iraq reportedly mobilized its army to target Syria’s al-Thawra dam on the Euphrates. Israel has cast its own eyes on Lebanon’s Litani River.

According to Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “The next war in the Near (Middle) East will not be about politics, but over water.”

If this watery grave is not enough, think of the next one…

Peak Fish: There is some fishy business going on in our oceans. Like oil and water, we are trawling deeper and deeper for our fish supplies. Such piscatorial adventures have led to a global decline in fish stocks. “Ecologists worry that entire fisheries will collapse as… ‘junk fish’ are used up.” Aquaculture, which substitutes marine catches to an extent, comes with its own environmental problems.4

The Times of London paints a similar gloomy scenario. According to some experts, 90% of fish around British waters “will disappear within 20 years” in the absence of an immediate intervention.

With 75% of fish stocks fully exploited, declining numbers across species worldwide hint at a collapse point by 2048, beyond which replenishment is not possible.

Peak Fish “comes at a time when their nutritional value is recognized more than ever.”

“World Health Organisation officials recommend a weekly intake of 200 to 300 grams of fish each week but today’s catches can only just meet this target. Since the 1950s an estimated 60 per cent of stocks in British waters have collapsed…”

The Times invokes the paradox that “measures proposed to limit fishing to a sustainable level will only place a cap on the nutritional flow for the coming decades.”5

The full circle

What began as sub-prime woes in the US housing sector may ripple into something we cannot yet imagine. Will there be a severe global recession, or worse? If wars are yet contained, bidding wars will yet emerge over wheat, water, fish, medicines and oil. What will the future hold in this ecology of crises?

Here is a refrain from the book of Hosea (4:3):

Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea are dying.

  1. As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes, NYT, Aug 26, 2007.
  2. Beijing police round up and beat African expats Guardian, September 26, 2007.
  3. Global Water Crisis Pacific Institute.
  4. Water shortages will leave world in dire straits USA Today, 26th Jan 2003.
  5. Fish will vanish from British waters in 20 years, says author Times Online, Sept 15, 2007.

Mathew Maavak can be found online at www.maavak.net Read other articles by Mathew.

King Hemp: Part 2: Battle Lines: Natural, Or Synthetic…Life, Or Death?

August 1, 2007

By Rand Clifford

7/31/07

Hemp is about life, renewal and future, power to The People…most everything America’s embedded fascist regime is not about. Government of, by and for corporations (CorpoGov) has us hogtied.

Corporate profits rule the priorities in a globalizing plutocracy (CorpoWorld) where the bottom line is…power to the bottom line. Corporate grip just keeps increasing, squeezing the life out of the biosphere—CorpoWorld truly is making a killing!

CorpoWorld lives by fossil energy, death and decay sucked and scoured from Earth’s burial grounds. Fossil fuels have already so poisoned the biosphere that canned tuna, healthy old protein standby, needs health warnings on the label. Banks of many rivers and lakes are sprinkled with signs reading: DO NOT EAT THE FISH! Common at others are diagrams detailing parts of fish where mercury, PCBs, dioxins, furans, lead and arsenic collect; anatomical maps posted to warn of where CorpoWorld’s toxic fingerprints are concentrating…. Mercury is the premier toxin, pervasive and potent, now piling up around the top of virtually every ocean food chain. The primary mercury dispensers are coal-fired power plants—China is building new ones as fast as they can, expecting to continue bringing another new plant on-line every few days…. And so it goes in the world of hidden costs keeping cheap imports “cheap”. So goes the biocidal foundation of “cheapness”. Nothing synthetic is cheap when all the real costs are accounted for.

Ironically, the most imminent threat to the biosphere has been set in motion by one of fossil fuel’s few “non-toxic” components. We keep pumping carbon dioxide sequestered from ancient atmospheres into our own atmosphere, where it retards infrared radiation from escaping into space—a life-supporting phenomenon in natural moderation, life-threatening in excess. Moderation, a weaker virtue of mankind, has been obliterated by CorpoWorld’s fundamental creed: More!

And of course, “Better”—remember DuPont’s slogan: “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry”? Formerly DuPont Munitions, the world’s leading manufacturer of gunpowder and dynamite, DuPont Chemical wanted to change their image from “the powder people” to “peace-time manufacturer”. Launched in 1935, the slogan persisted until the 1980s, when “through chemistry” was dropped. Word had gotten out that many of the chemicals for better living were accumulating in the biosphere with deadly effects, such as dioxin from pulp mills. Then in 1999, DuPont’s slogan became, “The Miracles of Science”. Over the years, DuPont has gone from a company dealing explosive death and destruction…to one dealing slower death and destruction, accent on the insidious. In a different way, DuPont’s major role in robbing The People of hemp was no less insidious.

Back to the 1930s; DuPont held the patents for making plastics and synthetic fibers from petroleum, and patents for that environmentally-infamous sulfuric acid process for making paper from wood pulp. New machinery to unleash industrial hemp’s cornucopia of superior natural products suddenly made The King a serious threat to profits of the petroleum and timber industries—real Titans in terms of economic and political dominance. William Randolph Hearst had seen the looming threat of a modernized hemp industry deflating his paper-making empire, and had already conjured cannabis hemp into “marijuana”, a Mexican slang term (or the Americanized, confusing and even slightly spookier? “marihuana”). Rattling his newspaper chains, Hearst had for years terrorized Americans with horrors of the “evil weed from Mexico”…truly a Greatest Hit in the art of propaganda (a certain “Stairway to Heaven” for the weed with roots in Hell!) Most people were familiar with the benefits of hemp, and cannabis, and were totally blindsided when DuPont and Hearst and their henchmen diddled Congress into strangling America’s hemp industry in 1937 with the illegal Marijuana Tax Act. Tax laws are for raising revenue, not for molding behavior. But….

1937…a year of remarkable infamy—in its annual report to stockholders, the DuPont company gloated over “radical changes” regarding the federal government’s conversion of taxation authority into a tool for forcing acceptance of “sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization”. Whoa!…quite a malignancy here—the voice of CorpoWorld proclaiming that after massive farm foreclosures of the depression, farmers were inhibiting America’s industrial progress. They should move to industrial cities so farmland could be consolidated into huge agribusinesses controlled by corporations—along with all other means of industrial production. Farming should be primarily for food…. These biocidal design were taken further when DuPont’s president, Lammont DuPont, proclaimed: “Synthetic plastics find application in fabricating a wide variety of articles, many of which in the past were made from natural products. The chemist has aided in conserving natural resources by developing synthetic products to supplement or wholly replace natural products.” You got it, Lammont, a world of synthetics…mother lode patents, petroleum alchemy, pollution, extinction, poverty and disease, deforestation, global warming; fascism, globalization, perpetual wars for dwindling resources; corporate centralization of all means of production—even global food supply. Concentration of money, of power, of control—power to the corporations, slavery to The People. Conversion of largely rural, agricultural America into an urban, industrial nation. Landfills brimming with immortal waste leaching death into our living systems, forever…. Amen.

Such is CorpoWorld’s bleak picture for living beings dependent upon a healthy biosphere—bleakest for those whose ultimate champion has been the same for over 6,000 years. Cannabis Hemp, The King. Consider globalization—unfettered corporations preying upon cheap labor, cashing in the biosphere’s life-support systems, spreading poverty and environmental disaster in the grossest pageant of greed in history, all powered by enormous consumption of fossil energy and armed with any necessary coercion, including war. Hemp is the ultimate antidote for the biocidal plague of globalization.

Whereas globalization is powered by the toxic waste of ancient life, hemp is powered by the sun. Hemp is the premier solar energy machine, something we sure would like to invent if nature hadn’t beat us to it (if hemp could be patented!) Few plants grow faster, are easier to grow, are better for the soil, and none are more useful. Land that has produced hemp exclusively for twenty years is in no way degraded. And no plant even comes close to turning sunlight, carbon dioxide, nutrients and water into so many products. No other plant can actually empower entire regional economies, the antithesis of globalization. Farmers could return to the status they deserve, growing the world’s most valuable crop and selling it to local markets that sell it to local processors that sell their products to locally-owned businesses that sell to local citizens that work in the hemp industry. All the wealth stays where it belongs—with the people that produce it. This could all be happening across America right now, if not for CorpGov.

Nothing is more environmentally-friendly than hemp. Any region with a hemp economy would remain a healthy place with clean air and wells, and waters with edible fish…any region not already smudged with the fingerprints of CorpoWorld. Plus, one of the few realistic ways we might mitigate global warming is to start pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Current CorpoWorld strategies are kind of like raiding the bar on the Titanic; lots of talk about reducing emissions, talks to make us feel better, temporarily, but such damage has been done. Rising temperatures have already sent many systems into positive feedback, as in Siberia, where melting permafrost is releasing greenhouse gases including methane in quantities that dwarf global releases of carbon from fossil fuels. Oceans are peaking out in their ability to absorb carbon. Forests, the planet’s lungs, are huge absorbers of carbon. But actual forests are getting rare fast, soon to disappear if we don’t shut down globalization. And proposed reductions in emissions translate directly into CorpoWorld profit reductions…let’s not hold our breath on that. Anyway, just this month, China actually passed the U.S. in carbon emissions to become the world’s leader. China doesn’t even want to talk about reductions in carbon emissions.

Vast fields of hemp could replace lung capacity lost to deforestation—the possibilities are limited only by our vision. Hemp gulps carbon dioxide like no other sink, and though biomass hemp fuels and other utilizations would return carbon to the atmosphere, it would be carbon taken from our atmosphere, not carbon from atmospheres of millions of years ago as is stored in fossil fuels.

Hemp will never be donated to The People, only seized. Anything that spreads wealth from the top, down through The People, will never be imposed from the top, only forced from below. So the question is not how good hemp is—one of hemp’s problems is that it sounds too good to be true. Well it is true, and until married to modern American technology we’ll never know the genuine potential of hemp. As is in more ways every day, our biggest problem is CorpoGov. Will We The People find the wisdom, coordination and motivation to take back what CorpoGov stole from us through lies and manipulation seventy years ago…lies and manipulation still robust today?

In Part 3: Getting hemp back, what are our chances?

Rand Clifford is a novelist and essayist living in Spokane, Washington, with his wife Mary Ann, and their Chesapeake Bay retriever, Mink. His novels CASTLING and TIMING are published by StarChief Press: http://www.starchiefpress.com

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